Depublizieren: A New German Law Puts An Expiry Date On Information

Our government has recently passed a law that could be from the novel 1984 by George Orwell. I am sure, many of you have read the book and remember that it is about creating new words and messing with archived information.


Whenever it suited that distopian government, they went into the archives to delete and manipulate content, so the real history could not be traced and they redesigned their language, creating new words and giving existing words new meaning.

I find it very creepy, when I see stuff like this happen in real life.


Well, we now have a new word: "depublizieren" which is the opposite of "publizieren" (to publish) and it deals with the deletion of public information.


Let me quickly explain about the "Öffentlich Rechtliche Rundfunk":


Here in Germany, we have two publicly owned broadcasting stations named "ARD" and "ZDF". They have subdivisions for local tv and radio. They are not run by the government, but a law takes care of financing it. Everyone, who owns a tv-set, a radio or a computer (so basically everyone) has to pay a monthly fee. That fee, together with revenue from advertisement finances the production of quality program that might not be generated by a private sector tv-station.


The fee and its coat and dagger approach of collecting it is widely frowned upon. I do not want to get sidetracked, but it is worth telling about that curious money collection-scheme. As I described, the stations are not owned by the government and are supposed to be as independent as possible. So they are not even depending on tax money. There is an organization that collects the money from the viewers and gives it to the stations (The "GEZ"). As soon as you move out from your parents house, by your own tv or radio, you have to send them a letter informing them that you would like to give them money. If you don't do that, they will pay you a visit to check if you own such a device. They do not have a search warrant, so they invent some kind of story to enter or simply spy on you till they have the prove that you own a tv, radio or computer, duh!


There are many similarities to the British BBC. That is because after the war, the allies wanted to make sure, that we never get evil government broadcasting and decided, that news-papers be privately owned while tv and radio should be publicly owned.


Besides that infamous GEZ, the system works well. They do good investigative journalism, are not afraid to criticize our politicians and do some really good science-programs. Unfortunately, we do not have great shows like BBCs Top Gear, but that might be due to the fact, that there is only one Jeremy Clarkson...


But now, we have the internet and newspapers start doing great online-content like while ARD and ZDF start putting their content online and spicing it up with some written information. Which is really great because, you can watch the show whenever you like.


The former print-publishers did not like the GEZ-financed competition and lobbied our politicians into passing a law that demands all that publicly owned online content to be deleted after .... wait for ... SEVEN DAYS. A few information was graced to live for up to one year. But nothing may live longer than that.


This is outrageous. We The Viewers have payed for the content. And politicians who are by design supposed to keep their greasy fingers off it, take it away from us.


Though the law is enacted on September 1st 2010, we already feel the consequences: The famous news-show already had to delete 270,000 videos more than 250,000 text-files and 25,000 Audio-files. So I guess the overall damage is more than a million files lost to the public. Let's just hope they hibernate on some harddrive at ARD and ZDF.


And do you know, what outrages me even more? That there is no outrage at all. I mean, what is the matter? Is nobody paying attention or are we really taking anything from our lawmakers?


If you know German, take a look at these links


But hurry up! You might get a 404, soon. They will soon be "depubliziert".

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